Saturday, December 31, 2011

On New Year's Eve

On New Year’s Eve, the people of the City prepare themselves for a celebration, unaware of the danger--never guessing that more than just a year might be ending.

The eikone Chronos, Father Time, lies near death. His hounds howl in their tesseract kennels and his imbonded servants, the bumbling giants of old chaos, Gog and M’Gog, blubber at his bedside. The old man--the old year--will die at the stroke of midnight.

In the Heavens, the angels gird for war. They double the host in shining panoply that guard the Celestial Gates and patrol the ramparts of paradise. They prepare for possible siege.

In the streets of the world, the soldiers and made men of the Hell Syndicate push bullets into magazines and check the action of their guns nervously. There’s the scent of blood and brimstone in the air. There may be war in the streets.

At the final collapse at the end time, the last singularity pulses omninously. It's vibration plays the funeral dirge of the cosmos; negative energy propagating backwards through time. The beat carries the slavering existence-haters of the Pit and the mad form-refuseniks of the Gyre dancing into the world for one last party.

The material plane draws, moment by moment, closer to the knife-edge of continuation and dissolution. And the clock ticks down.

(to be continued?)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Skull's Second Year

Yesterday was the second anniversary of this blog and, as 2011 draws to a close, it seems a doubly good time to look back on my blogging year.  Here's a selection of my favorite posts from the past year that you may have missed or forgotten, broken down by category.

Several good Strange New World/City posts didn't make it into Weird Adventures:
"The Dead Travel Fast" - What's not to like about drag-racing elder gods?  Johnathan Bingham had in itch to draw these guys, so maybe they will show up again some time.
"The Well-Dressed Man from Elsewhere" - Creepy ultraterrestrials should at least be well-dressed!
"Five Sinister Sorcerers" - Some of these guys showed up in Weird Adventures.  Others were just too sinister.
"Meet at the Morgue" - You're about to enter the exciting world of forsenic necromancy...
"Random Queen Encounter Table" - Six queens, not a one of 'em amused.

"Real Dungeon Hazards: Snotties & Slimes" - What? You thought all those various jellies, slimes, and puddings were just made up?
"They Like You for Your Brains" - With a fresh veneer, all your old monsters are new again.
"The Stalker" - "Cause subway stations are scarier than dunes.

Other Stuff:
"Foul Language" - A review of Pontypool turns into a musing on the possible dangers of arcane memorization.
"AD&D Cosmology: A Defense" - what it says.
"Midnight in the House Tenebrous" - A weird place on a weird world.
"An Alternate Spelljammer Setting" - A little more pulp, a little more occult, a little more real world.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Aftermath

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

Warlord #76 (December 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Bob Smith

Synopsis: In conquered Shamballah, Lord Saber-Tooth rages against the witch, Saaba. She promised him the Warlord, but Travis Morgan escaped! Saber-Tooth sends out lizard-dogs and a mounted search party to find him. Saaba transforms into a bird to do her own search.

In the nearby forests, Morgan is feeling Tara’s anger. She suggests he should have left her with her city instead of knocking her out and carting her away. Morgan counters that she would have done little good to her surviving people by dying on the Shamballah’s walls. Tara realizes he’s right, and begins giving commands to her soldiers to get the people ready to move to a place of safety.

Leagues away, Shakira and Scarhart are chafing under the rules of the Kaash’Ban. As friends to all animals, they forbid hunting, and Shakira and Scarhart are hunters. Scarhart chooses to abide by the rules and stay, but Shakira sets out on her own in a fit of pique.

In cat form, she comes upon a camp of armed men where she uses her feline wiles to get a meal. She also sees Ashir in chains and hears the men proclaim him a prisoner of New Atlantis. Shakira runs off back to Scarhart for help.

Morgan and Tara lead the Shamballan refugees through the forest toward the Valley of the Lion at the base of Fire Mountain. Suddenly, they’re set upon by lizard-dogs—and behind them New Atlantean soldiers astride other lizard creatures.

Krystovar suggests they take control of a few of the battle-lizards. They can get them to fight each other and disrupt the whole attack.

His plan works!

The refugees win the battle. Though they are reduced in number, they’ve survived to make it to the Valley of the Lion.

They find the valley well suited to their needs and also find a cave—though they are unaware that they are watched by a pair of eyes from within the darkness.

They’re safe for now, but they have to plan to retake Shamballah. The farmers and herders that have with them won’t be enough. Morgan suggests they send a group to weapons cache he found and bring back and many of those advanced weapons as they can. Tara agrees—and says she’ll go with him.


Things to Notice:
  • Perhaps a sabretooth tiger headed man isn't the best leader of an army--Lord Saber-Tooth seems more interested in revenge than shoring up his conquests.
  • Shakira and Scarhart reappear for the first time since issue #73 and Ashir for the first time since #63.
Despite this issue's title being "Aftermath," it's largely set-up for what's to come. Ashir, Scarhart, and Shakira are brought back into the story, and Morgan's plans regarding the weapons cache is revealed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Wizard's Estate Sale

Lucius T. Malregard, infamous Southron sorceror, has passed on. (His body was found ripped limb from limb and in an advanced state of decay, but that’s another story.) His estate is being sold at auction by his relatives. The following items are on the block:

1. Jelly Monkeys candies in a wax-paper bag: These 5 colorful, gelatinous, monkey-shaped candies have been made into homunculi powered by blood. A pinprick drop of blood in the “mouth” of a Jelly Monkey will animate it for a day and place it under the command of the person whose blood fed it. The monkeys are able to report what they see and hear, though their intellects and vocabularies are limited. If the candy is eaten, a person will experience everything the monkey did that day. The more blood fed to the monkeys (or that they illicitly consume), the larger they will grow--and the more willful they will become (though the changes take time and will not immediately be apparent).

2. Human Skull: An adult human skull with a separated calvarium. If a candle is placed inside, and the skull is in darkness, flickering black and white images (like a kinetoscope) are projected from its eye sockets. These images are essentially clairvoyance (as the spell)--if a specific location is requested (aloud) of the skull. Otherwise, they are random and may be from anywhere in the world. Every night at the stroke of midnight, the skull laughs loudly and says: “Oh, for Heavens sake, Ormsley!”

3. One Past Midnight Man: Selected Recordings: A box of 3 10-inch phonograph records emblazoned with an image of an old-fashioned minstrelsy performer: the One Past Midnight Man. If any of the records are played, strange and backwards sounding voices can be heard overlayed on the primary recording. Upon completion of an record, a 10-inch tall man dressed like the figure on the cover will appear, only he is not in embarrassing blackface, but rather his skin is an unnatural inky black--as if made out of night, itself. He can teach any spell of the necromantic school (and likely others)--for a price.

4. Obscura gossamer: Wound around a bone spindle, is a black and silken, rough outline of a human. In fact, it is a human shadow that if attached to a new host (this process is unknown) obscures the wearer in such a way that they are hidden from magical and nonmagical attempts to find them (short of a wish). People can interact with them normally (if they draw attention to themselves) but won’t remember doing so within minutes. Attaching the shadow is likely permanent.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Zat You, Santa Claus?

I hope everyone has a great holiday.... are a couple of Christmas pin-ups to help spread the cheer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Ogre Says

Only two days left until Christmas!  Still shopping?  Give the gift of hillbilly ogres, contagious murder ballads, hobogoblins, and man-eating cathouses.  Fill a virtual stocking with Weird Adventures!

Available from the fine retailers at RPGNow and Drivethrurpg.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All Your Holiday Favorites

In the tradition of yearly holiday television special repeats, I thought I'd revisit a couple classic Christmas-themed posts.  If you've never read 'em, they're all new!

When it's Yule-time in the City, Father Yule may need the help of stalwart adventures.  Find out why.

Speaking of versions of Santa Claus, there are a lot of them from the silly to the....well, somewhat less silly that might be used in gaming. See what sort of adventure may occur when Santa Claus comes to town.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: All Dreams Must Pass

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"All Dreams Must Pass"
Warlord #75 (November 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Bob Smith

Synopsis: In the Palace Library in Shamballah, the lavender-clad and mustachioed troubadour, Graemore, goes looking for Queen Tara, only to find out (to his disappointment) that her mate, Travis Morgan, has returned.

Meanwhile, Morgan and Tara are out riding and having the usual argument about Tara’s responsibility to her kingdom versus Morgan’s wanderlust. Where does it leave their their relationship?

Caught up in their personal drama, neither notices the sinister crow that seems to watch them.

Leagues away, a New Atlantean invasion fleet emerges into Skartaris from the sea passage. It’s led by Lord Saber-Tooth, a beast-man with a mission:

Back in Shamballah, Morgan and Tara’s ride becomes even less pleasant which a strange twister appears out of nowhere. It selectively snatches Morgan up into the air while the crow’s beady eyes gleam with triumph. Morgan manages to use his boot dagger to stake himself to a tree and ride out the weird weather. Almost losing him softens Tara’s heart towards him and it appears Morgan is back in her good graces.

The bird flies to a strange hut deep in the forest. There it transforms into Saaba, the witch our heroes encounter before. The wind elemental was her doing, summoned to get revenge on Morgan for denying her the power of the Eye of Shakakhan (issue #16). She realizes she needs help to get her vengeance. She looks into her crystal ball:

Graemore meets Tara in the palace. He can’t believe she took Morgan back after saying she wouldn’t. He makes no secret of the fact he loves her too and had hoped Morgan gone for good. He wonders what Tara will do when Morgan leaves again?

At that moment, Morgan is pondering the silver cassette and the mysteries of the weapons cache he found. Krystovar shows up, having discovered hints of an Atlantean complex beneath Shamballah. Morgan knows about it (from issue #15) and agrees to show it to him.

Descending into the complex, they find its computers more operational than Morgan thought. He puts the cassette under an analyzer and is shocked when the computer reads it as a U.S. Air Force service record—from over 300 years in the future!

There’s no time to ponder these mysteries, as they get grim news. Kaambuka, kingdom of Morgan’s friend Ashir, has fallen to an invading army that now marches toward Shamballah.

The New Atlantean Army approaches from the north and Saaba is helping them.

The Shamballan defenders fight bravely, but the New Atlanteans have energy cannons and Saaba’s magic. Her elemental smashes the city’s gate. Morgan realizes he must lead a retreat.

Tara, however, refuses to leave her city. Morgan has no choice:

Morgan leads what people he can gather down into the Atlantean complex and out beyond the city’s walls. Lord Saber-Tooth searches for him in the Shamballah’s burning streets in vain.

From a height overlooking the conquered city, Morgan swears to his mate he’ll help her get her kingdom back.

Things to Notice:
  • Graemore has gotten a perm since we last saw him.
  • Where are the other Brood-Brothers?  Does Lord Saber-Tooth go it alone?  And why is he a lord? 
Where it Comes From:
Again, Burkett relies heavily on Warlord lore.  The Graemore-Tara-Morgan triangle introduced in the back in the imposter story arc, Saaba the Witch, and the high-tech Atlantean ruins beneath Shamballah (where previously the computer went insane).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weird Adventures Outtake and Review

Those of you who've picked up Weird Adventures (and thank you) have no doubt noticed a few advertisements sprinkled here and there for products or services not available in our world.  There were some others that didn't make it into the pdf--like the one that was going to feature this logo for Brown Jenkin Whiskey:

Aged in non-Euclidean barrels, I hear.  Brown Jenkin Whiskey: Look for it where you find other potent spirits.

Anyway, Satyre has a thorough (and positive) review of Weird Adventures hereAos, ruler of the Metal Earth, is less detailed but unambiguous in his advice to "buy it now."  They're both very wise men.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


In the proud tradition of the EX series of modules, consider this isolated valley (or maybe a demi-plane) inhabited by strange creatures--some of them with foodstuffs for heads...

Stranglely, despite being part foodstuff themselves, the inhabitants cheerfully consume the talking food that exists ready-made in their environment: There are patches of cheerful "hamburgers," trees that grow apple pies, a lake teeming with breaded and fried fish, and even a small volcano which oozes a frozen chocolate beverage.

The strange land is not without its dangers.  There are small, bespectacled goblins ("gobblins"), shaggy and colorful, who will steal food from the unaware.  A humanoid of piratical dress and demeanor wll menace those who take the fried fish from the lake.  A masked humanoid thief in cloak and stripped outfit likewise steals food, but he favors beef.  Finally, there is a purple blob-like creature that can manifest two or four arms, who is sometimes benign, but other times may attack to steal the "shakes" which emerge from the volcano.  The creature may be some sort of "shake" elemental, himself.

Though not in a overt position of leadership, the secret ruler of the land is a clown in motley with a friendly demeanor--but perhaps less friendly goals.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weird Adventures is Here!

The wait is over!  Weird Adventures is now available in pdf form at RPGNow and Drivethrurpg (so choose your favorite portal).

It's 165 pages (black and white with 4 full color maps) featuring:
  • City Confidential--A guide to the 5 baronies, numerous neighborhood, and weird locales of the City.
  • A guide to the Strange New World beyond the City, including the mysterious jungles of Asciana, morbid and insurrection-torn Zingaro, the gambler-haven of Faro City, and much more.
  • Thirty new monsters from "Black Blizzard" para-elemental to "Zombie, Cuijatepecan."
  • Adventure seeds and a mini-crawl through the City's largest (and weirdest) park.
  • Art by old school stalwarts Johnathan Bingham, Chris Huth, and Stefan Poag, plus great work from comic artists Reno Maniquis and Adam Moore, among others.
For those of you pining for Weird Adventures in hardcopy, that's coming in the New Year.  They'll be a discount for the purchase of both the pdf and the print of demand versions.

Thanks to everyone for their support over the (longer than expected) time to do this project.  I hope it was worth the wait.

Wizardly Trade Union

It’s traditional in fantasy for thieves to have guilds (probably not like the Lollipop Guild above), but wizards may or may not have professional organizations. For every Mages or Sorcerers Guild in literature there are a number of lone wolves, like Merlin, or members of very select crews, like Gandalf and Saruman.

Magic-user organizations are actually somewhat attested to historically. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s Argenteum Astrum are two examples. The line between coven, cabal, and cult admittedly gets blurry when looking at the real world; theurgy and thaumaturgy are not so cleanly separated as they are in games.

Fantasy literature gives some good examples. The Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time where sort of Lensmen/Green Lantern Corps of a previous age, but by the time of the main story are more like a church or monastic order. The vengeful Bondsmagi of Lynch’s Locke Lamorra series are a like a mercenary company, protectionist guild--and criminal organization. The various Schools of Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and Aspect-Emperor series are practitioners/protectors of specific paradigms of sorcery and feel certain sociopolitical niches.

All of these could be good models for rpg wizardly organizations, but is there any reason to stop at just one? Mages in different cultures/locales might take on very different roles: anointed-by-the-gods rulers in one nation and mercenary hoarders of knowledge in another.

So are there magic-user organizations in your setting? What role do they take?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tarrasque Harvesting

What do you do with a gigantic, immortal monster stalking the wild places? If you’re a daring and entrepreneurial sort in Ealderde, Eura, or even the City, you harvest the living behemoth for anything of value.

Nobody knows where the Tarrasque came from, though there are a lot of theories: Staarkish Kriegsungeheuer--it’s gargantuan parts grown in separate industrial alchemical vats and melded together by cunning biothaumaturgy? An eikone given flesh, collective animus of the saurian monsters of prehistory? Alien? Elder God? There are as many ideas as the Tarrasque has spines.

Wherever it came from, the monster stalks cross Eura from Korambeck to the Arctic Wastes. It periodically enters periods of turpor lasting days to weeks, where it crouches, umoving and close to the ground. These are the times when harvesters can safely climb aboard the monster with little risk of winding up in its stomach. Once encamped, they take adamantine-tipped jackhammers and alchemical solvents to its hide. They scrap off carapace to sell to armorers and artificers, jar its ichor for alchemists, physicians, and thaumaturgists, smuggle its glandular secretions to junkies and assassins, and even trap its lice for whoever is willing to pay.

Most harvesters ship out for a few months. They erect tents in hammock-like nets affixed to the monster's hide; it takes little notice of them most of the time. Daring flyers dart in to hook dangling bags of material for sale, and eventually, harvesters headed for home.

Exposure to the creature is inherently toxic. All but the best preserved (and least flavorful) foodstuffs spoil rapidly. Plants die within days; small animals may last a week or more. Humans can last months, but many harvesters find it prudent to wear lead-lined suits. Even still, cancers and neurologic ailments are more common among those that have dwelled on the Tarrasque than the general population, and harvesters seem to age before there time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Home Again, Home Again

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Home Again, Home Again"
Warlord #74 (October 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

Synopsis: Travis Morgan and Krystovar have escaped the forces of New Atlantis through the sea cave back into Skartaris. Krystovar suggests they need a destination and asks Morgan if he has a home. Morgan says that he does and adds that it’s probably time he returns there to his mate.

Morgan and Krystovar land at the port of Bakwele. There they sell their boat and begin the trek across the swamps and the Forest of Ebondar to reach Shamballah. Krystovar fills Morgan in on the history of the New Atlanteans. They came from a different city-state, apparently, than the Atlanteans that settled Skartaris. Nothing the healer knows explains the advanced technology—some of it marked with the symbols of the U.S. Air Force—that Morgan found in the cave. That mystery nags at the Warlord, and he’d like to solve it.

Camping in the forest, Morgan goes to sleep, leaving Krystovar awake to tend the fire and take the first watch.

With both asleep, neither has a chance to see the large black bird that has been following them since they entered the forest, alight on a branch above them. Suddenly, their campfire begins to grow as if taking on a life of its own. It spreads quickly and strangely to form a circle entrapping our heroes.

The rising heat wakes Morgan from slumber. He rouses Krystovar, who immediately notices the behavior of the fire isn’t naturally. Morgan isn’t concerned with that at the moment, and has Krystovar climb up into a tree. When they’re both amid the branches, Morgan plays Tarzan again and swings them both to safety.

As soon as they’re free, the fire dies away. Krysotvar again points out the fire wasn’t natural and asks Morgan if he has any enemies in the forest. Morgan’s reply:

The two soon reach Shamballah. Morgan doesn’t get the reception he was expecting, as the guards bar him from entrance, and his wife’s faithful soldier Trogero shoots an arrow his direction and tells him to leave Shamballah immediately.

Krystovar notives the arrow has a message on it. Following its instructions the two hide in the woods outside the East Tower. Trogero appears and lowers a rope. He tells Morgan that Queen Tara did indeed give orders that her mate was not to be allowed to enter the city, but he had to help Morgan anyway.

Morgan disguises himself and sneaks into the palace. Tara has been expecting him:

See? Anyway, she gives him the usual lecture about running off after adventure and leaving his wife and responsibilities. She accuses him of once being a man with a dream of freedom and progress for Skartaris—a dream he has abandoned. Morgan admits this is true, but he says he’s turned over a new leaf and he’s going to be that man again. And he loves her.

Tara softens a bit (as she always does), and says she’ll think over letting him stay. She pulls him into her boudoir before sending him away.

A little later, a self-satisfied Travis Morgan remembers the silver cassette in his belt. He ought to get read of that thing, but his curiosity has been piqued and he really wants to get back to that cave…

Outside, a sinister looking black bird wings over Shamballah, plotting.

Things to Notice:
  • Tara falls for Morgan's dubious promises once again.
  • Where does Krystovar go all the time Morgan is making up with Tara? 
Where it Comes From:
The title is a reference to a line from the Mother Goose rhyme "To Market, To Market."

Burkett gets around to explaining the difference between his New Atlanteans and the Atlanteans we've seen before in Warlord.  Krystovar's explanation doesn't real provide a reason for the wide technological disparity between the two Atlantean isles.

The raven that isn't really a raven is a character returning from a previous issue, but I'll wait for the story to reveal who that might be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Those Who Went Remain There Still

Three hard-bitten farmers and a spiritualist enter a cave in search of a treasure--and find monsters. It sounds like a zero level D&D adventure, but its actually the capsule description of events in 19th-Century Kentucky in Cherie Priest’s novella Those Who Went Remain There Still.  In place of divine intervention, the ersatz adventurers have got the ghost of Daniel Boone.

The story begins with Boone and a group of trailblazers cutting a road through the wilderness. Along the way they encounter a bird-like creature that terrorizes them by night, snatching men away one by one. This frontier horror tale unfolds interspersed with events in Kentucky of 1899, where the patriarch of two feuding families, the Coys and Manders, has died and estranged family members are summoned back for the reading of his will.

The two stories intertwine, of course. To receive the old man’s bounty, a chosen group of Coys and Manders must enter the forbidding and noxious Witch’s Cave to retreive his will. There, a horror waits that was not truly conquered by Boone and his band over a century before.

Priest weaves a unusual horror tale that is sort of Lovecraftian (in the sense of being firmly rooted in a particular place, and having “normal” men face horrors beyond their understanding) but mixes it with a definite Southern gothic feel. The basic plot could be inspiration for traditional Medieval fantasy, but the whole idea of frontier monster-slaying is perhaps even better.

Check it out!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Weird Adventures Update

The Weird Adventures project is coming to a close.  The layout has been completed, and I'm in my last round of checking it over before unleasing it on the public.  It's coming in at 162 pages--slightly longer than my last prediction.

I'm out of town at a conference, but I thought the audience that's been awaiting this for some long with enjoye seeing another couple of sample pages.

Here's one from the section on the City:

And here's a page from the monster section:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Return of the Sea-Eagles

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Prophecy: Chapter 3: Return of the Sea-Eagles"
Warlord Annual #2 (1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: Pulled down into the depths, Morgan is close to drowning when he finds an underground grotto. After a rest, he follows the glowing lights into a passage he hopes will lead him out. Only a short distance down the passage, he finds the way blocked by a rock pile.

Climbing the pile, Morgan manages to squeeze through a narrow space at the top. He tumbles into darkness. Somehow, he triggers a switch, and his surroundings are suddenly brightly lit:

He finds a bag of grenades and silver cassettes with a swan emblem on them. He throws one of those into the bag to take to Krystovar. Most importantly, he finds a swan-prowed sky-sled that seems similar to one he flew before. And it’s armed with a laser weapon.

Morgan flies out of the hangar. He follows an underground stream back to the sea passage, but has to use the laser to blast his way through the last bit. He flies on toward New Atlantis to rescue his friend.

Meanwhile, the Brood-Brothers bring Krystovar before their prince, Ar-Pharazael. Krystovar has been a thorn in the prince’s side for some time, but now he’s captive, and the scrolls of Norrad he had stolen are returned. There’s just one thing:

The helmet whose return is prophesized to herald the end of New Atlantis.

Ar-Pharazael flies into a rage. He orders the Beast-Changer(tm) prepared to give Krystovar the head of a roach!

Over New Atlantis, Morgan sees the ship he had been held captive on. He drops in to retrieve his pistol from the boar-headed captive and get some information.

In the city, Ar-Pharazael has Krystovar strapped into the Beast-Changer. He boasts he has no fear of fairy-tales and plans to have the eagle helm melted down. At that moment, Morgan makes his attack. He drives the crowd back with the laser, then tries to destroy the jewel powering the Beast-Changer, but for some reason it’s resistant.

With no other choice, he sends the sled crashing into the machine. Morgan moves to free Krystovar. His ammo running low, he throws one of the grenades into the advancing beast-men—and is surprised when it totally disintegrates them.

Krystovar finds Ar-Pharazael half-buried and likely dying beneath some debris from the machine. He asked the prince what became of his brother. Ar-Pharazael tells him his brother lives—but he’s been turned into one of the Brood-Brothers! He dies before Krystovar can get more out of him.

Morgan and Krystovar make their escape. Morgan uses the grenades to eliminate their pursuers. At the docks, they steal a boat. They set sail for the cave passage.

Things to Notice:
  • Krystovar gets called "Krystobal" and "Krystobar" in this issue.
  • Is New Atlantis underground or not?  Earily issues suggested it was, but it certainly seems to have a brightly lit sky.  Is it under Skartaris's eternal sun? 
Where it Comes From:
Morgan makes reference to the controls of the sky sled resembling "the Atlantean sled I flew once before."  Either Morgan is misremembering, or this is an undepicted adventure.  He flew a sled of the alien Alces Shirasi in issue #18, and a flying disc taken from the Titans in issue #33, but neither particularly resembled this one nor could they be identified as "Atlantean." 

Ar-Pharazael swears by Astoreth in this issue, which is the name given in the Hebrew Bible to a goddess of the Phoenicians, often called Astarte.  In later demonology, she gets transformed into Astaroth, a male devil.  Ar-Pharazael's own name seems to evoke "Pharoah" and "Azazel" (a supernatural being mentioned in the Bible, which later folklore identifies as a devil).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nawr the All-Consuming

Symbol: Stylized image of a rat-king, as if the animals are dancing in a circle.

Alignment: Chaotic

Ravenous Nawr is one of the group of petty deities know as the vermin gods.  It is not so much worshipped as placated.  Every harvest, offerings of grain are arrayed around small statues or carvings of rats where real rodents can consume them.

If this ritual is not observed, there is chance that rats will gather and in the twist and tumult of rodent bodies, a rat-king will form and instantiate the godling.  The composite deity wil summon up a swarms of rats and swirl through the community that has offended it, chewing, biting, and possibly consuming everything in its path.

The visitation always occurs at night and is of variable duration, but always ends by sunrise.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Supermen of the Black Sun

The saucer-shape of German spacecraft, employing a radically different design paradigm than the vessels of other nations, suggests a source of technological information separate from the captured resources of the failed “Martian” invasion of 1898. The preponderance of evidence suggests this knowledge was shared with certain occult societies that support the Nazi Party by a more advanced race--the beings referred to in intelligence reports as the “Blond” or “Nordic” adepts.

Captured documents refer to these beings as “Hyperborean.” It is the belief of the Thule Society and other German occult groups they are the pure-blooded descendants of the original “Aryan” race they once lived in a polar Atlantis. Some cataclysm led to their empire’s collapse and they retreat to a hidden redoubt. This is variously described as “underground” or within the “hollow earth.” The name Agartha is often used for this enclave.

The Agarthans or Hyperboreans are associated with a symbol called the “Black Sun.” Psychometric intelligence gives the impression that their civilization may be nourished by a literal black sun--some sort of sphere of concentrated vril energy.

If the Hyperboreans are of terrestrial origin, it raises the question as to where they have been throughout recorded human history. Their attractive forms and metaphysical powers suggest the possibility that encounters with these beings may underlie much of human mythology and folklore.

Hyperboreans are physically and psychically stronger than normal humans. Extreme caution should be taken when encountering them either physically or astrally.

(More from an alternate Spelljammer Pulpier Space.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Conan and Cthulhu

The preparation going on out in the Hill Cantons for a game in the Hyborian Age got me to thinking about a couple of works of nonfiction of that should appeal to the fans of the "Weird Tales Triumvirate" and anyone looking for pulpy inspirations.

Dale E. Rippke used to have a great website devoted to several prominent characters of Sword & Sorcery.  That's gone, alas, but you can still get a hardcopy collection of Rippke's speculations on mysteries of Conan's world in The Hyborian Heresies.  If you've ever pondered just what happened in the Great Cataclysm or wondered who built those green stone cities that Conan occasional happens upon, Rippke's got some guesses.  It also includes his "Dark Storm Chronology" which radically rethinks Conan's career and was utilized as the backbone of the new Dark Horse series.

Several of Howard's stories touched on Lovecraft's mythos.  The third edition of Daniel Harms's The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia not only covers the contributions of the gent from Providence and the man from Cross Plains, but also stuff from Thomas Ligotti, T.E.D. Klein and Stephen King.  Its entries from Abbith to Zylac also includes material from Chaosium and Delta Green.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: In the Hands of the Brood-Brothers

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Prophecy: Chapter 2: In the Hands of the Brood-Brothers"
Warlord Annual #2 (1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: After capturing our heroes in Chapter One, the theriocephalic “Brood Brothers” of New Atlantis bind Morgan and Krystovar to poles and carry them to the coast. They suffer from the eternal sun and the cruelties of their captors. At the coast, they’re thrown in the hold of the Brood Brother’s ship, on their way to New Atlantis.

Krystovar resumes his tale of the history of their destination. As the community built by Norrad and his band began to thrive, a group of Atlantean refugees arrived under the leadership of Ar-Diamphos, one of the princes who had led in the evil rites. Norrad made them swear an oath to abandon their former wickedness before allowing them to join the colony.

Unfortunately, Ar-Diamphos was not to be trusted. It wasn’t long before he was presiding over the old rituals again. Ar-Diamphos influence grew to the point that he was bold enough to send assassins against Norrad.

Norrad slew the attackers, but was himself fatally wounded. As he was dying, he dictated a prophecy concerning his winged helmet. It would leave New Atlantis but would someday return—and herald a final doom for Atlantis’ evil. Norrad’s wife and the scribe who wrote down the prophecy fled the colony as soon as he died. Those loyal to him either fled or became victims of Ar-Diamphos’s experiments. The prophecy didn’t stay hidden from Ar-Daimphos for long:

The strongest of the beast-men became Ar-Daimphos’s bodyguard, known as the Brood Brothers. In the centuries since, the descendants of Ar-Daimphos continued to replenish the Brood’s ranks with slave captives.

While telling his story, Krystovar has managed to slip free of the chains by use of some ancient body contraction techniques. Morgan’s appreciative, but he still wonders how Krystovar wound up being chased by the Atlanteans.

Krystovar’s twin brother was captured by Atlantean slavers when they were children. He spent most of his life searching for their hidden city. Eventually, he found it and stole certain items from their vaults (though it doesn’t say what those were).

Morgan doesn’t pry. He tells Krystovar to take up a link of chain so they can strike back. They sneak up on deck, where Morgan is surprised to discover their surroundings: There's a cave ceiling above with glowing stalactites:

He doesn’t have time to marvel further, as the Brood Brother’s discover them. They’re out numbered and poorly armed, but Morgan’s got a plan:

They climb the mast. Morgan decides that jumping into the sea is their only chance. He puts his plan into action—but Krystovar doesn’t follow. He won’t leave the ship without the items he risked so much to steal. Morgan is unaware of his new ally’s concerns but has troubles of his own:

To Be Continued

Things to Notice:
  • Morgan calls Krystovar out on his blatant exposition.
  • The allure of blasphemous rituals is apparently just too much for Atlanteans.  They just can't resist getting into it. 
  • Given the number of aquatic monsters we've seen in the series (even in fairly shallow water) Morgan's dive into the sea seems pretty bold.
Where it Comes From:
Again we get the Warlord against up against the  Warrior Beasts.  Too bad Remco didn't make Krystovar toy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Which Way to the O.K. Corral?

Over Thanksgiving I found a street map of Tombstone, Arizona, I got on a visit several years ago.  I had the thought of scanning it, but its too large for my scanner.  I did find this decent stand-in online and a map of Old West Deadwood as well.  Next time a black hat in a Wild West game tells a PC "this town ain't big enough for the both of us" these ought to be helpful in determining the veracity of that statement.  They might have a use in other settings, as well.

Tombstone was a silver mining town, though it is, of course, most famous as the site of the O.K. Corral where the gunfight took place in 1881.  Much of historic Tombstone remains to this day, though wikipedia notes the National Park Service as taken the town to task for having a lax approach to historic preservation.

Deadwood, South Dakota, also trades on its historic past.  That and gambling seem to be the town's primary sources of revenue.  Thanks to several fires over the decades, less of Old West Deadwood remains than of Tombstone.  The graves of Wild Bill Hickok, "Calamity" Jane, and Seth Bullock can still be found in the cemetery on Mt. Moriah, however.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gods from the Comics Page

Fantasy rpg settings usually make-do with Bullfinch’s Mythology derived/inspired pantheons, monstrous deities of the Lovecraftian or Howardian variety, or the occasional monotheism. Nothing wrong with those, but looking to the pages of comic books suggests some interesting variations:

Space Gods
Kirby’s Eternals posits that those classical pantheons were just misidentifications of a subspecies of humanity uplifted enigmatic aliens. In the fantasy context, maybe the aliens are some sort of elder gods (recall that Lovecraft’s Elder Gods felt unaccountably protective to the gods of the Dreamlands) and the Eternal stand-ins could be something like the Menzter’s Immortals. The other option would be to play up the science fantasy aspects for the full von Daniken. “A sufficiently advanced technology, etc., etc,”--maybe the world only appears to be a fantasy world and alien super-science is the order of the day?

The Endless
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman strips down the pantheon idea with the Endless. Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium are (as their names would imply) personifications of concepts. Marvel Comics has a similar (though less developed) class of beings like this: Eternity, Oblivion, Lord Chaos and Master Order, and again Death. The Endless fit into the mythologies of various cultures in various ways, but they don’t have mythology of their own really, just personal history. A group of beings like the Endless could be the sole deities of a world, just worshipped under different names by different cultures, or (like in Sandman) these sorts of personifications could be an order of cosmic beings separate and “above” the usual pantheons with whom PCs could interact.

New Gods
“There came a time when the old gods died!” as Kirby told us in New Gods #1. As the title suggests, Kirby started in with the exploits of the New Gods--and Grant Morrison gave us even newer new gods in Final Crisis. A world could be post-god shift, adding some interesting background, or the setting could be in the midst of the “godless” period, post-Götterdämmerung but pre-reemergence of the new gods. Players might actually have a roll in finding/shaping the new gods that would appear.